December 8, 2019

How Important Is The Rut To Deer Hunters?

That may be best answered on an individual hunter basis. For some, they pay little attention to the rut while others won’t make a move without first knowing at what stage of the rut they think the buck is in.

The stories abound when it comes to the rut. For those who may not know, the rut is a cyclical time during the fall of the year when a buck deer goes looking for doe deer to mate with.

For as many stories as there are, there are just about as many theories used to support them. Many swear that the rut is brought on by cold weather. Others think it doesn’t occur until the doe comes into estrous causing the male deer to do strange things. Is it the current phase of the moon? Does it happen just before, during or after a full moon in November? Is it set off when the deer begin eating certain foods?

According to Matt Knox, a deer biologist with the Department of Game and Fish in Virginia, the rut happens just about the same time every year. It varies but ever so slightly and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t last very long either.

Knox says that the rut is triggered by the change of light in the fall of the year. This change lets the buck deer’s pituitary glands know something is up. At this time the pituitary stimulates the release of testosterone, a male sex hormone produced in the testes.

But I know you want to say that back in 1948 I remember the rut happened……or in 2002 it came real late and it was a warm fall. Can this be true? Perhaps….er, uh, maybe somewhat.

There are some things that can influence the start time but these influences generally are local to a specific area. What can have an influence is the health of the bucks in a given area or the overall age. A group of good healthy bucks will be ready to go immediately. A mature healthy buck can begin a bit earlier and experience an intense rut.

In reality, based on scientific studies, the rut will happen in your area just about the same time every year. Of course differences in the light change within time zones I would assume reflects a slightly different onset of the rut.

Matt Knox says in Virginia it is at its peak about mid-November. He claims that if you study the results of when big bucks are shot, it will reveal that year after year, it happens at the same time – at the peak of the rut.

When is the rut where you live and do you pay close or little attention to it?

Tom Remington


New Study On Elk Suggest Changes Needed

A new study on elk and brucellosis suggests that feed grounds got to go and current methods used of killing exposed elk is counterproductive. The Jackson Hole News has the complete story.

Tom Remington


Building A Kayak From Driftwood And Scaps

Jack Ryan, a member of Indiana Hunting Today and the Indiana Hunting Forums, provided a link to this website. It’s a pictoral progression on how to build a kayak from driftwood and other scraps found. Really it’s worth the click to go over and check out the craftsmanship.

Tom Remington


A Quick Peek Into Maine's Strategic Management Plans For Deer, Bear and Moose

The other day I received an e-mail from Mark Latti of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I finally took the time this morning to read it over. What great information he sent along.

Back in 2001 the state of Maine instituted its latest management plan for deer, bear and moose. This plan remains in effect until 2017 but along the way certain adjustments need to be made to achieve the long-term goals within the management plan. Each year around October, the department issues a report that summarizes any changes in strategies and how the working plans are producing desired effects.

What Mark sent me was a sneak peek look into what will be in that report in October about deer, bear and moose. It also contains an overview of what should be expected for upcoming season harvests for hunters.

If you are interested in the management strategies for three of Maine’s big game animals, I would highly recommend the read. You can find it posted here at Maine Hunting Today.

Tom Remington


Hunters Should Speak The Truth

Hunters are no different than people who don’t hunt. We all have our opinions on issues that involve our sport of hunting. Opinions are one thing but when we resort to telling lies in an attempt to support our own opinions, no good is being served. One of the biggest mistakes we all make is by lumping large quantities of a group together qualifying them as all being the same.

Here are some examples of what I mean. “All hunters are cowards who hide behind a gun”. We have all heard that one many times. How about this one? “Hunters who use a scope on their rifles are cheaters” or better yet, “Hunting behind fences is not hunting. It’s unethical, animal abuse and anyone who would do it is sick”.

This last comment is one I have heard endlessly over the last several months and I sure wish we would all do a better job at clarifying our statements. We have used a couple of terms to describe what it is that we are opposed to but how we have used them isn’t right.

The two terms I’m talking about are “canned hunts” and “high-fence hunting”. We use these descriptions to lump together any and all game preserves and ranches as unethical hunting. This is an unfair characterization and it’s not truthful as well.

In our passions to protect a good image of hunting, we can’t resort to an approach of two wrongs making something right. We can all easily agree about the obvious when it comes to hunting in enclosures. Tactics such as drugging and tying game up for hunters to shoot is pretty much a no-brainer.

Not all game ranches are the same. Each has to be taken on an individual basis for the quality of ranching they employ. To lump all preserves as canned hunting destroys aspects of our sport that many of us are fighting to protect.

For an individual to make a blank statement that hunting within any fenced in preserve is unethical, is ignorant and more than likely hypocritical. Ethics is a touchy subject and many of us feel very compassionate about certain issues surrounding it.

In all fairness to hunters, the businessmen and ourselves, we all as one big group should think a little harder before we make generalized statements about our fellow sportsmen.

Tom Remington


Wildlife Biologist Lee Kantar From MDIF&W Explains Sunday Hunting

Before you go getting too excited about the title of this blog, let me first explain that Mr. Kantar relates the possible affects having an additional day, Sunday, for hunters to hunt deer. His efforts were done from a scientific perspective which is exactly what I was seeking.

Perhaps I should make a couple clarifications about Sunday hunting first. There has been talk here and there about Maine offering Sundays as another day for hunters to have a chance to hunt. The working man feels that Sundays would give them some more free time to hunt as many work 6 or 7 days a week. For some, Sunday would be an only day they could hunt.

Those opposed to Sunday hunting say they don’t want hunters in the woods on Sundays. It robs them of one day a week during the deer season were they could be outside feeling safe.

Landowners have threatened to close their land to hunting if Sundays were allowed. There are many reasons a lot of people have come up with for and against the proposition.

I should make it clear that of any of the proposals that have been discussed about Sunday hunting, none involve big game hunting, i.e. deer, bear, moose, etc. It has just been about small game – upland birds, rabbit, etc.

I have made my position clear on numerous occasions as to where I have stood on this issue. In short, I am opposed to a Sunday hunt for big game because I fear having an extra day of hunting each week would in the long run end up shortening the season.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife does a pretty good job in maintaining our deer herd. One of the biggest tools they use in managing deer population is the issuing of Any-Deer permits. These fluctuate according to need. In other words, if hunter harvest increased because of 3 or 4 Sundays in November to hunt, fewer Any-Deer permits would be issued the following year. If that didn’t correct any upsurge in harvest numbers, a shortening of the season would be in order.

In my studies and travels around the country, I have come across several wildlife biologists who have said that in states that have a Sunday hunt, the extra day(s) had little or no effect on management goals for game populations.

This got me to thinking and so I sent an email to the MDIF&W and asked them if Maine had a position on this and if so what is it. I was elated to receive an email from Lee Kantar, a wildlife biologist from the department, who took the time to explain as best he could. As you will see from his response, there are too many unknowns to be able to be very definitive about this issue from a scientific perspective. Here is his response.

Dear Mr. Remington,

I currently work as the Deer Specialist for IFW, let me try to respond to the question you raised in your recent email regarding Sunday hunting and increased harvest.

One of the biggest influences on deer harvest is hunter effort-the number of days each hunter chooses to hunt. It appears over the last 2 decades that the total number of deer hunters has decreased while individual effort has increased. Part of this is due to the opportunity to hunt over a long season and ability to choose different hunting methods. An increase in hunter effort can result in additional harvest. Our management system is designed to make annual adjustments to our allowable harvest on does through the any deer permit system. Our system incorporates a strategic plan and management system that sets population density levels. This system has been highly effective in reducing or stabilizing deer densities in areas where densities have been too high and limits antlerless harvest where densities are too low. Each year we look at our harvest biological data and the performance of individual Wildlife Management Districts and make adjustments to the any deer permit numbers based on our density objective for the district. Our ability to achieve desired doe harvest levels has been fairly good and thus far our inability to increase deer densities in parts of the state has been due to factors other than hunting mortality (i.e., deer wintering areas). If a district experienced an overharvest of does in a given year, the result would be a reduction in any-deer permits the following year.

If Sunday hunting was allowed it would most likely increase overall hunting effort because it may be easier for an individual to hunt on weekends than during the work week. Would it also increase the number of deer harvested? Would it increase the number of deer harvested such that we would need to shorten the season (or change season structure in some other way)? What the harvest data has shown is that we experience a high harvest on opening day (60% more than the average Saturday during firearms in 2005), followed by relative steady harvests each week with a spike during the last week of firearms. Our firearm season is responsible for the bulk of the deer harvest (88% in 05’) and hunter participation and success with an associated increased harvest would likely show itself here. The next question would be what percent of successful Sunday hunters are the same hunters who would have hunted during the week and harvested a deer? Would a Sunday hunt affect participation and harvest rates during the week? This part of the equation we cannot predict, what is important is how the overall harvest looks like by district and in composition.

In addition to this, hunter success plays an important role in harvest fluctuations. Environmental conditions such as heavy rain or snowfall can be an important factor in harvest numbers. We have seen that our firearm success rate depends much on the number of Any-Deer permits that are issued. Any-Deer permittees because that can harvest a doe or fawn tend to have a higher success rate then buck only hunters. And buck-only hunters success hinges partially on the abundance of deer in that district. The last time we gauged hunter success rates the difference between Any-Deer permit holders and Buck-only hunters appeared to be 28-40% success versus 6-16%. While Sunday hunting means additional hunting days, environmental conditions and hunter effort impacts harvest numbers in ways that we cannot predict but can manage accordingly in the following year’s permit levels.

Additionally we have differences in participation in northern and southern Maine and Sunday hunting may have the potential to increase hunting participation from non-residents up north and residents in the south and central districts. Again low deer densities in the north and big woods country still allow for good buck escapement and may result only in negligible increases in harvest. South and central districts may experience increased harvest on the weekend with an associated decrease during the weekdays, since bag limits would not change. In the end given all the different factors, we would analyze the harvest data in relation to the management system goals and objectives that are in place and make adjustments as necessary. Having two weekend days to hunt does not necessarily guarantee increased hunter success, so while participation may increase, harvest and increased vulnerability would need to be closely watched to determine the magnitude of this additional opportunity.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email or give me a call.

Lee Kantar
Wildlife Biologist-Mammal Group
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
650 State St.
Bangor, Maine 04401-5654

If you surmise as I did, my assumptions were not totally unfounded nor does it appear that 3 or 4 Sundays in November would have such an affect that is would cause the shortening of the overall season. It could happen but given the information shared with us by Mr. Kantar, it’s not real likely. This of course is my conclusion not his.

It appears that issues such as weather would have a greater affect than adding a few days. If this is true, I need to recant some of my previous statements as to why we shouldn’t have Sunday hunting. This doesn’t now mean I am for a Sunday hunt only that this argument appears to be moot.

Tom Remington


How Many Toes Does The Mystery Beast Have?

According to a Canadian crptozoologist, he counts 5 toes with a doubled-up dew claw on the Mystery Beast of Turner, Maine. Dog’s have only 4 toes. In today’s Lewiston Sun-Journal an article covers more lore, legend, history and speculation about the beast.

Tom Remington


Let's Not Forget Maine's Mystery Beast

It was only two weeks ago and we can’t forget the Mystery Beast. You can find my previous stories here, here, here and here.

In the meantime, remember the Lewiston Sun-Journal that jumped all over this story? They confiscated one of the beast’s feet. They have sent it on to a lab in Toronto, Canada – HealthGene Corp.

They say DNA test results should be completed sometime next week. One can only hope that to keep the mystery alive, no real determination will be made. (Insert evil hissing here).

Tom Remington


A Sensible Overview of Hunting And a Balanced Ecosystem

Anthony Mauro, assistant publisher of Big Game Adventures magazine, presents a reasonable overview of how hunting plays a significant role in the balance of our ecosystem.

Tom Remington


Poachers Beware!

*Update – 10:00 am* scroll for the updates.
Years ago, not that I would have any first hand knowledge, poaching was, well, more commonplace than it is now? It was pretty hard to prove anyone was poaching unless they pretty much got caught with one hand in the cookie jar and the other holding a cookie that’s in your mouth. The times they are a changing my friend.

With the scientific technology of today, it is much easier to pin the blame on someone even years after the fact. Take for example Charles Pedraza of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He has been found guilty of illegally shooting a moose in Colorado during the 2002 elk hunting season there. He has been fined $11,391 for starters.

It wasn’t completely technology that found him out. It took the help of a couple of concerned citizens. The first call came when someone found a moose skull with the antlers having been cut off that had been dug up by a bear. Along with that, authorities found remnants of plastic garbage bags and other moose skeletal remains.

Later on authorities got another tip via the “Operation Game Thief” hotline that linked Pedraza to the killing. Officials did some checking and found that Pedraza had a cow elk permit for that area but was never issued a moose permit.

With the assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pedraza was contacted and he sang like a canary even admitting that he figured after 4 years his worries were over.

The hide from that moose Pedraza had in cold storage and DNA testing matched the hide with the other remains found in the woods. Even if Pedraza hadn’t confessed, I feel quite confident that he would have been had.

So the next time you are toying with the idea of illegally bagging some game, think CSI and DNA.

Tom Remington

*Update* A clarification is needed in how Pedraza actually got caught. He did indeed confess AND he promised to return to Colorado Springs, his former hometown, but didn’t show. USF&WS obtained a search warrant for the storage area where officials found the hide.

Pedraza in addition to the $11,391 fine also falls under the Samson Law. The Samson Law mandates a $10,000 fine for anyone illegally shooting a trophy animal. Officials say any bull moose falls into the category covered by the law.

In addition to the fines, Pedraza lost 15 points from his license – not enough to lose his hunting privileges.

Tom Remington